The “What’s Different?” Series: Good Hotel, San Francisco

Good Hotel in San Francisco is a proper city hotel quite deserving of its name. Located in a charmingly seedy area of town, it is linked with the hotel across the street where you can make use of the pool or gym, or dine in its burger restaurant. SoMa, as the neighborhood is called for its location South of Market Street, can be a rough side of town, complete with vagrants and other unique individuals that make people-watching there a veritable adventure. The Good Hotel embraces this inner-city vibe, and is designed with attention to enriching the environment and local community.

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The “What’s Different?” Series: Mark Spencer Hotel, Portland

Meeting with the Sales Director at the Mark Spencer Hotel in Portland, Oregon was an eye opener, yet again, to Portland’s general commendability as a city. During our discussion he obliged my interest in the green aspects of the hotel, which are excellent, but he also conveyed a sense that “this is just how things are done here.” Portland’s strong culture of sustainable thinking and environmental awareness are reflected in the mores of the community and business climate. This was an interesting take-away from my visit with the Mark Spencer Hotel: since the hotel’s commitments to operating sustainably are practically the norm in such a progressive city as Portland, they didn’t seem so different. Furthermore, the city, with its wealth of expertise, familiarity and expectations with regards to ‘green living,’ lends itself to a highly integrated approach to sustainable business, proving to be quite comprehensive and genuine in the example of the Mark Spencer Hotel.

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The “What’s Different?” Series: Delta Vancouver Suites

I was already snapping photos of the signage in the lobby when I was greeted by the Sales Manager at the Delta Vancouver Suites. She was happy to discuss the many green initiatives and practices at the property, and I was eager to learn them. As a conversation with one of the hotel’s managers, this visit was perhaps more informative than my previous night spent as a guest of the Century Plaza.

The last of the in-room plastic water bottles

We started with a tour of guest rooms, which get great natural light and where she explained that the hotel was in the process of phasing out plastic water bottles, newspapers and coffee makers in guest rooms. The water bottles are replaced with filtered tap in reusable bottles, and newspaper and coffee available on request or in the lobby.

Over a tasty lunch I gained some insight into the employee perspective. Continue reading

The “What’s Different?” Series: Century Plaza, Vancouver

As my first of the trip, I checked into the Century Plaza Hotel & Spa in Vancouver with ears piqued and eyes peeled, self-inducing a sensitivity to visible manifestations of the hotel’s “green” commitment. But nothing about the lobby seemed different from your average hotel: reception, elevator bank, informational television screens, a café, a spa – it all seemed quite deluxe.

Then I arrived in the room. Continue reading

The “What’s Different?” Series: An Exploration of Green Hotels in Western North America

With links to so many globally impactful human activities, such as transportation, lodging, foodservice and agriculture, the tourism industry is uniquely positioned to effect a paradigm shift toward this thing called sustainability. Buzzword though it is, sustainability has perhaps too many potential concrete applications to be easily defined in abstract terms. With a certain root sense of lasting or enduring, and more current denotations that are important in a global way, sustainability can be manifested in many real ways through business.

Finding myself motivated by applications of this concept in hospitality businesses, I set upon a mini-quest during the summer, making a series of five visits to hotels that do it well.

In the What’s Different Series, I will recount site visits and room-nights in hotels that have incorporated a commitment to sustainability into their communications and business identities, with the goal of identifying just what’s different? In hotels where I stayed a night, I’ll evaluate what sets the guest experience apart, if anything, from the experience at an “ordinary” hotel. Are there sacrifices? Perks? For the hotels that granted me a conversation and site visit, I’ll cover more about what they actually do differently in operations. What are the policies? How are the employees involved?

With its so many facets, hospitality has the opportunity to set a wide variety of examples of sustainable business. Looking forward and working forward, the questions I’m asked (mostly by myself in rumination), boil down to: what consists of sustainability in hospitality, and how do we get more companies to do it? Continue reading